|McCorkle, Barbara B. compiler. New England in Early Printed Maps, 1513 to 1800: An Illustrated Carto-Bibliography. Providence: The John Carter Brown Library, 2001. xx + 354 pp. $185.00. ISBN 091661753X.
Up front, I am a New Englander. We New Englanders have been writing our—and by extension, America’s—history ever since William Bradford stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock. And not only have we been writing American history for almost four hundred years, we have been writing—and publishing—bibliographical guides to our history since the last years of the nineteenth century when Channing and Hart, later joined by Frederick Jackson Turner, produced their Guide to the Study of American History. This was followed by the successive editions of the Harvard Guide to American History. However, while our northeastern states were the first of the English colonies to have been mapped, we have not been as assiduous in producing guides to our maps. Cartographic history, indeed geography, has not been a major academic pursuit in this area. Very few colleges and universities have departments of geography, and courses, when offered, are often found in combined geography and geology departments. Fine map libraries do exist at Harvard and Yale, but neither institution confers a doctorate in the subject. The University of Massachusetts, Boston University, and Clark University are the only universities in the New England states which have doctoral programs.
Alphabetically, New England comprises the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Carto-bibliographies of varying value do exist for the individual states. However, no systematic list of the region’s maps has ever been published. Barbara Backus McCorkle has—single-handedly—undertaken in the volume under review an illustrated carto-bibliography of New England printed maps from the region’s earliest appearance on Waldseemüller’s 1513 map to its inclusion on five national maps of 1800. Her definition of a “New England” map is one which includes “at least part of three or more of the present-day states of the area.” (p. xiv) Some areas of present-day Canada are also included in the earlier maps.
Mrs. McCorkle has attempted, and largely succeeded, in producing a comprehensive descriptive list to fill the egregious lacuna. It is a chronological arrangement of approximately eight hundred maps, alphabetically by cartographer, or by title if the cartographer is not known. Each entry includes the date, the cartographer or engraver, title, source, references, notes, and locations; 455 of the maps are illustrated. The oblong format of the book provides a generous page size of 11 by 12 inches which allows room for illustrations ranging as large as 7 7/8 by 10 inches for No. 755.37, Robert de Vaugondy’s Partie de l’Amerique Septentrionale…down to 2x2 inches for detailed sections. Users of the volume will find its utility enhanced by the four chronological lists of maps: 1513 to 1685; 1686 to 1755; 1756 to 1775; and 1776 to 1800. Searching is further facilitated by a chronological list of individual state maps, an index of map titles, another of persons associated with the making of the maps, and an annotated bibliography of 141 items.
Barbara McCorkle has listed and described every early map of New England she could find after a search of forty institutions over a period of ten years. She acknowledges that she may have missed some and invites additions from readers, which the publisher, The John Carter Brown Library, intends to add to a future web site where errors will also be corrected. It would not be constructive to complain that she didn’t produce a different book, such as Burden’s or Shirley’s, and unrealistic to expect every map to be illustrated. This work is, as I have noted, the first attempt to do something on this scale. To say that it is useful is an understatement. It is a baseline—and more—for the study of New England maps, a wonderful reference work that has been well worth waiting for. I believe she has achieved a sort of immortality: “McCorkle” will be cited for at least the remainder of this century and institutions, map-sellers, and collectors will consider their holdings even more valuable if they can cite “NOT in McCorkle” as evidence of an item’s rarity.
Stockbridge, Massachusetts Historical Commission